Mercedes AMG-Motorsport eRacing – The Story So Far
In 2016, the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport eRacing competition brought a new, exciting format to RaceRoom and the virtual racing scene. Over 10,000 drivers tried to qualify via the in-game leaderboards for a final event at the Hockenheimring, where the best drivers would compete against real racing drivers in equal RaceRoom simulators to win an AMG Driving Experience – the oppurtunity to drive real high-profile sportscars on a racetrack. In the end, the 19-year-old Tim Heinemann from Germany was victorious.
For the 2017 season, Mercedes-AMG and RaceRoom stepped it up in order to create an even more exciting competition. Instead of a pure hotlapping contest for the qualifier, the drivers would now have to compete in a full nine-race-season of 20 minute races in order to qualify for the final event, where the top 6 drivers would be invited to compete against the entire Mercedes-AMG DTM driver line-up. Three AMG Driving Experience packages are the prizes for the best simracers in the final event.
Once again, the virtual version of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM, carefully recreated in RaceRoom to match the original as closely as possible, was chosen to be the car for all participants. To add an extra bit of spice, for each round, there would be a VIP driver, a real AMG racing driver, competing against the fastest 18 qualifiers.
As for the virtual drivers, champion Tim Heinemann returned, representing Team racegitter.de in the pink BWT livery with the number 46. His closest rival from last year, Julian Kunze, would represent EURONICS Gaming in the #3 TV Spielfilm car, while Impact Racing’s Alexander Dornieden chose the grey #6 Mercedes me car. But new competitors with a lot of virtual racing experience were plenty as well, including the British driver Jack Keithley in the silver #20 machine, as well as the BWT trio of Jaroslav Honzik, Florian Hasse and Kevin Siggy Rebernak.
The first round took place in Hockenheim, and the VIP driver was none other than formula one driver Pascal Wehrlein. Julian Kunze opened the season with topping the first leaderboard. In qualifying though, newcomer Jack Keithley looked like the certain polesitter, but in the last seconds of the qualifying session, Tim Heinemann improved his time and secured himself the first position on the grid. The reigning champion made a great start and after initial pressure by Keithley, Heinemann cleared off into the distance. Keithley started fighting with Dornieden for second, and it all went wrong after contact coming up to the Mercedes grandstand. Julian Kunze benefitted the most, as he took second place, but it wasn’t enough to catch Heinemann who continued where he left off in 2016.
For the second round at the Lausitzring, Heinemann was absent though. This opened the door for Keithley, but Austrian Kevin Siggy Rebernak was strong on the East German circuit. Keithley and Rebernak qualified on the front row and started to battle early on, swapping the lead a few times. Keithley was trying everything to stay in front, and when Rebernak took the lead in turn 1 just after half of the distance, Keithley tapped him into a spin. Rebernak dropped back, while Kunze and Moritz Löhner were now all of a sudden in the battle for the win. Keithley managed to hold on for the win, but post-race-penalties meant he lost almost all of the points he earned. The VIP driver, Daniel Juncadella, had a strong showing and just missed out on the points by one position.
The Hungaroring hosted round 3, and Jack Keithley gave the perfect answer after being criticized for his driving in the Lausitz. The Brit, representing Team Satellite, scored a flawless lights-to-flag victory, despite being under pressure by Julian Kunze for the entire race, who scored yet another second place. Behind these two, a spectactular battle formed. Tim Heinemann charged through the field after an uncharacteristically bad qualifying performance and took no prisoners. He finished the race in 3rd position but just like Keithley last time, was penalized after the race.
For the fourth round, the eRacers went to the Norisring. The street circuit in Nuremberg is known to provide exciting racing, but also always a bit of controversy, and this event proved to be no exception. Keithley qualified on pole and took the lead of the race once again, but the red flags were shown 5 minutes into the race. Keithley was unfazed though, won the restart with a tough defending move against Rebernak and started to gap the field again. Rebernak fought against Heinemann and in the first hairpin, the two BWT drivers collided, with Heinemann losing out the most. Keithley won ahead of Rebernak, but the fight for third place was exciting until the end. Florian Hasse and Nick Madsen, two drivers who had unspectacular seasons so far but also improved round by round, battled it out, with the better end for Hasse.
What followed was a trip to Russia, to the Moscow Raceway, and it started to become a routine: Jack Keithley on pole. But this time, Tim Heinemann was out there to prove why he is a champion: He surprised Keithley on the first lap and took the lead. The battles were exciting throughout the field, and VIP driver Daniel Juncadella was right on pace, driving inside the points for a large part of the event. Keithley meanwhile was watching Heinemann, saving his tyres and waiting for a mistake of the German. In the second half of the race, Keithley started to attack. His first attempt failed but with five minutes to go, he managed to beat Heinemann on acceleration out of the final corner. Heinemann was struggling a bit, and Nick Madsen saw his chance, but almost spun when he tried an overtake in turn 4. Keithley won once again, followed by Heinemann and Czech driver Jaroslav Honzik.
The battle between Keithley and Heinemann increased even further in the most recent round at Zandvoort. Keithley put his Mercedes-AMG C63 on pole once again, but Heinemann got a better launch from second and tried to take the lead around the outside of the first corner, only to be shoved onto the grass and dropping back into third. Heinemann then collided with Rebernak and re-took second place, and passed Keithley a few laps later in the chicane. Keithley fought right back, and both drivers swapped positions once more with pieces of bodywork flying off the cars due to the aggressive driving on display. Keithley also lost a position to the strong-performing Jaroslav Honzik and only finished in 3rd, while Heinemann took the win, but he had to pay a huge prize for it: After picking up yet another penalty, the German has to sit out the next round.
For the championship, this means that Keithley is leading right now on 95 points, including penalty points and one drop score. Heinemann is second ahead of Kunze and Rebernak, with Florian Hasse and Jaroslav Honzik rounding out the top 6, both drivers on equal points at the moment. Moritz Löhner, Matthew Williams, Nick Madsen and the ever-improving Daniel Schön are rounding out the top 10 at the moment and can also still hope to qualify for the final.
There are three online rounds left: The German classic Nürburgring, the high-speed hills of Spielberg and just like in the DTM, Hockenheim once again to round it out. The big final event will take place on Friday, October 13th, in the Mercedes-AMG hospitality during the final DTM race weekend of the season in Hockenheim, where the best 6 simracers and the 6 DTM drivers of Mercedes-AMG will battle it out for the eRacing crown.